Healthy-Road-Trip-Tips

I had a fantastic week of travels two weeks ago and met a number of fantastic leaders and men.

First stop was in Whitehaven (Cumbria) where I spoke on reaching working class men with the gospel.  I met a very dedicated group of people who had decided to move the church out of the town centre and onto a needy estate nearby.  Not many churches doing that!  In the evening I spoke to leaders and church members from around the area about the gospel and culture…and how we connect the two.

Then it was all about Scotland.  Firstly I met Rob Waller of Mind and Soul in Livingstone.  Rob is a consultant psychiatrist and committed follower of Jesus.  Emotional and mental health in men is something I’m really interested in, particularly in the alarming number of suicide victims who are men.  I was so struck by what Rob had to say that I’ve asked him to speak at our CVM training day in Feb and I hope also at The Gathering next year.

Finally it was all about Scotland.  Firstly A pit stop in Falkirk and a quick tour of the Royal Yacht in Edinburgh (seeing how the other half lived).  Picking up CVM Scotland Director Stephen, we went up to Inverness to speak at a men’s day there, organised by the Alive team.  I have to say it was a fantastic day and gives me great hop for our work across Scotland.  The urgent need now is to raise funds so that we can deploy a team to carry the work forward.

All in all a great week of travel.  There’s a huge amount going on out there in the world of men’s ministry.  My hope is to give you some snap shots from time to time so that you get a feel for the movement as it grows.

 

I’ve been thinking a great deal over the years about the way we communicate the “good news” about Jesus to men.  We wonder why we see so few men becoming followers of Jesus but fail to effectively and analytically look at the message we are communicating, the way we are communicating it and who we are communicating it too.

So, here are a few blog posts over a few weeks about telling ordinary men about Jesus.

I strongly believe that the church is failing to operate behind enemy lines.  As far as I can see, the UK church is rarely in the front line trenches of proclamation and hardly ever behind enemy lines. Check this very simple diagram out:-

scale

 

 

Dave (mark 1) is not a Christian.  He doesn’t give a stuff about what you believe unless he’s had a couple of beers.  He is after-all, like most men, an expert on everything already. Sure he likes to row with you in the pub but for the most part he doesn’t really care about church stuff and its not at the top of his list of hot topics to discuss with his mates.  Working class Dave wrote the church off years ago.

So who is Dave?  Well, Dave drinks beer, loves football (West Ham of course) and thinks that Jeremy Clarkson (if you don’t know who he is, you need to get out more) should be Prime Minister.  He has a skilled manual labour job, only goes to church when someone gets married, drops dead or chucks water on their kids head before having a few beers and a roast dinner.  He doesn’t care about atheism, creationism or any other ism.  He’s a bloke.

Then there’s Dave (mark 2).  Dave is a full on fired up follower of Jesus.  He prays, tithes, has a quiet time and feels guilty when he doesn’t. He goes to the mid-week prayer meeting and a home group.  He smiles at the little kids in the church and helps out sometimes at crèche.  He happily sits through long sermons and sings emotional songs to a man.  He has embraced churchianity and christianity.  He is Dave redeemed, tamed and cleaned up.  (More on the “taming of the Dave” in future weeks).

There is however a massive problem.  Most church evangelism starts where the church is on the diagram.  Way too far along the scale of belief.  To go on an Alpha course, you need to be prepared to sit and have a meal with a stranger, over a structured 10 week course, attend a Holy Spirit weekend and share your feelings.  Alpha is amazing as is Christianity Explored.  But to attend you have to be prepared to want the conversation and be fairly committed to seeing it through.  You’ve also got to be able to work through some real church sub-culture stuff and get the jargon. (More on this issue in future editions as well).  He’s also got to filter a message that tells him that he’s needy and needs a saviour.

Basically, it’s not going to happen is it?  Or if it does its rare.  Sure, someone will write to me and tell me how Dave came through but its not happening in massive numbers is it.

The church needs to learn how to operate in the realm and world of Dave (mark 1) and that friends, is behind enemy lines.  At CVM we view it as a massive victory if we move a bloke along the scale of belief.  Get a debate going with Dave that’s not beer fueled and you’ve won a skirmish behind the lines.  He accepts an offer of prayer and you’ve neutralised a defensive shield.  Get him to your church blokes clay pigeon shoot and bonfire and you’ve taken an enemy position out.

Firstly of course you’ve got to get behind enemy lines and to do that you’ve actually got to make some mates who aren’t followers of Jesus. I kid you not when I tell you that I know evangelists who haven’t got any mates who aren’t followers of Jesus. So lets get out there.

Future blogs will cover:- jargon, what is good news to a man, church for men and more.

As a final note, you’ll realise that this blog is about actually telling people about Jesus.   The UK church is swamped just now with loads of political and social justice activity.  I’m deeply involved in some of this activity.  Its all good stuff but I appeal to you that we mustn’t lose proclamation.  As far as I’m concerned, the biggest injustice of all is that people die without knowing Jesus.

It started as a joke. I was standing in Washington DC airport when my eyes settled on a Barak Obama snow globe. I couldn’t resist it so I bought it for my wife Karen and presented it to her when I arrived home. Lets just say I got a bemused reaction.

About a year later I was standing by Niagra Falls on another work trip when my eyes settled on a Niagra Falls snow globe. This one was a clear plastic heart shaped one with a picture of the falls in it with “Niagra Falls” written in a bright red old fashioned font on the picture. The snow was actually shiny red hearts. Lets just say it was tacky. When I got hime I presented it to my wife and got another slightly bemused, albeit warmer than before reaction. A few months later as I was packing a bag for a quick jaunt over the The Netherlands, Karen walked over to me and said. “I’d like another snow globe with a windmill in it…”

A couple of years on and as I write this blog from my wife’s desk at the CVM office, I have in front of me, a sea of snow globes (and a sand globe from Dubai and a red gloop globe from India) from all over the world. Its become a tradition. Any new country that I visit as part of my work with CVM and I get Karen a snow globe. When asked why I do this, I just look at them and say “its a gesture of love of course!” In fact, so passionate has Karen become about the snow globe thing that if I was to return without one, she would be a bit upset about it. This has led me to a two hour walk through Hyderabad, resulting in the red gloop one and a desperate search in Dubai ariport for a sandstorm one (complete with camel). The rules are simple; It has to be tacky and it has to at least in someway represent the country I’ve visited. The office team here have got into it a bit as well and theres always a bit of interest when I return from a trip in the whole snow globe thing.

Now, I’m not the most sentimental of blokes but theres something about this silly tradition that means something to Karen and I. What started as a joke is probably deep down, a way of dealing with the fact that we don’t actually like being apart from each other. As a man, I often don’t think about the little gestures that can mean so much to people but I think there is a call on us guys to take a step back from the testosterone stuff sometimes and as in the words of Otis Redding “try a little tenderness.” Now this doesn’t mean that I’m calling blokes all over the UK to go out and start a snow globe revolution. I am however calling on blokes to start a tenderness revolution. To take time with your wives (if you’re married) and to make the little gestures that can make so much difference. To take time with your kids (if you have them) and to demonstrate strong gentleness. And if you haven’t got a wife and/or kids to show people that you are slow to anger, rich in love and that you can be kind and gentle as well as enjoy petrol, bonfires and raw meat. Its all about being the complete man, the kind of man that deep down we know we ought to be.

As for me, I’m off to Cambodia later this year. I suspect thats going to be something of a challenge…

Boxing-008We’re heading for a scrap. Announcing some developments.

A few years ago, before I was about to preach in a church, as is custom, I went into a back room to pray.  No one was in the room apart from an elderly lady.  After telling me that the room was for the preacher, and after explaining that was me, she then said this:-

“God’s just given me a picture.”

I find old women scary.  Old women with a gift of prophecy are frankly terrifying!  After repenting of all my sins, known and unknown I looked her in the eye, resigned to my fate and steadied myself.  This is what she said.

“You are in the woods, in fact you’re running through the woods and you’re scared.   You’re crouched over and carrying a rifle.  You’re running into battle and you’re scared because you think you are on your own.  However, you’re not.  I can see men; thousands of men all emerging from the woods and you are all armed.  Your enemy is waiting for you in a clearing and you are about to be joined in battle.  It’s going to be very tough and painful but you will win.”

With that, she stopped and started to pray for the morning meeting.

As for me, I was left shocked.  It was exactly what I felt and I had been praying hard that we would see a movement of men emerge all over the world that introduce men to Jesus.

The time has come for us to engage in the battle.   That’s our deep conviction at CVM. Over the last few years we have produced resources and run vision casting days for men who are followers of Jesus.  In 2014 onwards we will be taking the fight to the enemy,  right to the heart of his camp.  Men need to know their need for a saviour.  We intend to tell them in huge numbers via our grass roots network, social media, the Internet, resources and gatherings.  We need your prayers and we need a war chest.

Plans include:-

  • Developing a male specific version of an evangelistic website that has so far seen over 5 million people make decisions for Jesus.  This is unprecedented in its scope and scale and is a huge piece of work.  We have global partners for this project which will be an awesome resource for men everywhere
  • An evangelistic tour linked to a website and giveaway resource featuring testimonies captured in a cutting edge media format
  • Advocacy on the issues that numb and blunt the ability of men to share their faith, such as pornography
  • Recruiting and deploying more men’s groups, area coordinators, speakers and leaders

We are determined and focussed – and intend to fight hard.  We need more people giving to our cause.  In fact we need another 400 men to give £20.00 a month.  We have over 8000 men plugged into CVM and just under 700 regular givers.  In order to ramp up the fight we need to build the war chest and keep the supply lines open. Could you help us?  The Internet project alone, which could potentially reach hundreds of thousands of men needs initial funding of over £25,000.  We’re not holding back.  There’s no rehearsal time.  Lets do this.  Lets go! (Matthew 28:19)

Thanks so much for standing shoulder to shoulder with us.

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There’s a wealth of material out there to read and study when it comes to leadership. In fact, we’re drowning in resources. I thought however I would smash down the lessons I’ve particularly and personally learned in 2012. This isn’t hugely thought through either. Its an instinctive list, most of it come to the hard way (by messing up and having to learn from it quickly).

1. As a leader you have to sometimes make tough decisions that will hurt you and hurt others. No matter how hard you try to avoid the latter, its an inevitable consequence of being the leader. The fact that people may get hurt doesn’t make those decisions wrong. If you’re not prepared to face up to that inevitability then perhaps the role isn’t for you. You won’t be the winner of any/many popularity contests…

2. A leader needs to learn to keep his/her dignity in the face of criticism whether public or not. Avoid using your ability to speak out widely to defend yourself or attack critics from the front. If you defend yourself against an unfair critic you are effectively making them your judge. Theres a couple of useful proverbs; A wise person overlooks a critic but a fool speaks too much! Thats not to say that we shouldn’t have our lives spoken into or receive feedback. I’m talking about criticism thats toxic and sub kingdom. Let it wash over the top of your head.

3. You have to learn to accept that not everyone will have all the facts about a decision you’ve made and it maybe right that hardly anyone ever does. You just have to suck up the pain.

4. Anything new or fresh is liable to be criticised.

5. In a ministry context, I’m still learning to believe that God pays for what He orders. Never put money before the vision or the fear of finance will suffocate it.

6. Persistence pays off.

7. Constantly reinforce the values and vision of what your organisation is about.

8. Loyal staff who own the vision you set before them are worth more than their weight in gold. Find ways to reward and praise.

9. A gifted and talented person still may not fit the culture of your organisation. Chose people very carefully and be robust in your selection processes. Find out if they are on the same page as you. Do they have the same values? Are they of good character and willing to be led and make sacrifices for the ministry you are engaged in or is it all on their terms first?

10. Leadership involves constant risks. But as I keep saying, nothing ever happened to someone who didn’t have a go.

Be known in this life for the way you give, not the way you take.
Live generously in word and deed.
If you lend anything, do it as if you will never get back what you lent
Travel lightly through life, holding nothing material too tightly
Only hold tight your family, the people you call “friend”
Your faith in God.

Be known for being a man of justice, not blind to the needs of the world
Be compassionate
Be kind to your fellow man, make mercy and justice your traveling companions
Seek to do what is good, resist evil, never allow hatred of men a root in your life.
Only hate and despise that which imprisons mens hearts
And takes them on a road to hell

Love your family and treasure moments, enjoy friendships
Spend more time with people
Always give people the benefit of the doubt and believe the best
Be prepared to get hurt, walk humbly, live vulnerably
Guard your heart, keep it soft and never let it harden
Or your enemy wins

Work hard but don’t make work your master
Leader or follower you are a servant
Whatever you do, you do before an audience of one
Be diligent, honest, respectful and known as a man who finishes the task
Take criticism well, listen and take advice
Or you’ll fall into error

You’ll one day breathe your last breath
Live life in readiness for the final journey
Keep God close, walk in repentance before Him
Make sure you are at peace with all men
Point others to the place where you are heading
When that time comes, if your heart is right and you are walking with the King
You will receive a faith heroes welcome

Carl Beech 12/12

Is your church a couch potato?

Having led churches, planted churches and worked as a evangelist/strategist supporting churches since the mid 90’s, I’ve started to notice some fairly obvious signs that inform me as to whether a church is a lean mean mission machine or a spiritual couch potato. In a nutshell, is your church more concerned with stuffing its own face than getting out there? Here are some bullet points to chew on;

1) What are people getting hot under the collar and wound up about in church members meetings? Is it stuff like the church building, finances, constitution, budgets? If yes, then it’s a couch potato. By contrast, when was the last time people got wound up in a meeting because not enough people were meeting Jesus or that the needs of the poorest in the community were not being met?

2) How is commitment as a follower of Jesus measured? Is it by attendance at some kind of church meeting or is it whether that person is living for Christ in their daily sphere of influence?

3) What sort of testimonies are shared at the front, if any? Do they speak of living for Jesus in the rough and tumble of everyday living?

3) Who are considered to be the missionaries? If your church has a missionary board that defines mission as “out in some remote place somewhere,” then most likely it’s not educating people or celebrating the fact that they are on mission where they live and work. (Burn those boards and destroy them without mercy).

4) Who does the church pray for and who makes it onto the prayer list? If it’s mostly the clergy and the sick then something’s wrong. If you do make it onto the prayer list because you are speaking at a drop in meeting or daytime bible study but never got prayed for re your working life then that’s a sign that the church is in a bubble. If the church does pray for those in the work place but its normally people in the caring professions, then its defining the more caring professions as “Christian”. What’s that all about? When was the last time the church prayed for van drivers and accountants etc? In other words, is the church asking for and accepting the workforces’ money but hardly ever praying for them?

5) What percentage does your church give to “mission”? Couch potato churches give a strict 10% or under to tick a box. If you argue that your own structures are about mission then do some honest analysis of who the activities are reaching and serving.

6) Who is commissioned and ordained into service for Jesus? The clergy/pastors or everyone wherever they are? Do we commission people whenever there’s a job change or ordain people as Jesus’ ambassadors from the school gate to the factory floor?

7) Does the church employ an evangelism equipper and enabler?

8) What proportion of money is spent on sound and visuals as opposed to local evangelism?

I suppose I’m a fairly typical guy. I love Top Gear, sport and action movies. I love extreme (ish) endurance challenges, prog rock (cant believe I just admitted that) and nothing more than and banter filled evening with my mates. I’m also madly and deeply in love with my wife of 19 years and I totally adore and love to bits my two daughters Emily and Annie who are 12 and very nearly 14.

I also have a sex drive. I’m a red blooded male, so what do you expect? The fact we don’t talk about it much in churches doesn’t mean that we don’t. However, there’s a problem. The world outside the church is highly sexually driven but they do talk about it. In fact, they don’t just talk about it; they flaunt it and get in everyone’s faces. The church by contrast seems powerless to respond and the sexualised culture we have marches on.

There’s a lot I could say but in a few short words I’ll say it as it is:- I’m pretty sick of the porn peddlers. It drives me mad (anger is a very underrated fruit of the spirit). I walk into a newsagent with my two girls and right in their faces are a bunch of lads mags with bare breasted women and smutty headlines. So what’s that saying to my girls? Its saying something like;

“you are objects of sexual gratification for blokes…that’s all your good for.”

And what’s it saying to men? I guess its something like; “this is what drives you…we know what you’re really all about…we know what you really want…and its smut and sleaze”


Time to take a stand I think fellas.

You want to make a difference? Next time you see lads mags in a newsagent at eye line, either turn them all around or scoop ‘em up and place them on the counter and ask them to be displayed more appropriately. Evil persists when good people do nothing. (Edmund Burke).

It’s also time for blokes to start to speak up and put up. We’re not all driven by sleaze. We can flipping love sex but be monogamous and strictly eyes front. We need to start fighting the porn cancer that’s eating at the hearts of men. Watch this space but I feel like a man at war.

As for page 3? It’s become so culturally ingrained we’ve forgotten how demeaning it is for us all. I’m writing this on the day that the Duchess of Cambridge had a picture taken of her topless on holiday whilst in private. It’s a disgrace. Lets show that we want no more part of this. Take 5 minutes and sign this petition. Time to start demonstrating that ‘real men’ don’t do porn.

Carl Beech

The last time I was interviewed by Christian.co.uk, it was the most-read article on their website for weeks on end. This interview was written and first published by Sam Hailes here…

Having seen the head of Christian Vision for Men (CVM) give his seminar at New Wine, I waited patiently as a queue of people formed to speak to Carl. He would later reveal, while making a point about lust being a “primary issue” for men, that every conversation he had was about sexual sin.

After half an hour of Carl counseling and praying for people, we made our way to the speaker’s tent to discuss his vision of seeing a million men come to faith in Jesus.

One Million Men

Carl tells me that according to surveys, 75% of British men are antagonistic when it comes to the gospel. “Which leaves 25% who are not…I think we can take a million of that 25%. I think it’s a God given figure actually. I had a prophetic guy contact me recently who said ‘I don’t think a million is enough, you need to up your game’ which is quite interesting.”

Speaking bluntly throughout our interview, Carl keeps his answers to my questions brief and to the point. He’s just explained CVM’s four levels of evangelism. 500 small groups across the UK and beyond aim to: 1) Befriend other men 2) hold an event with a speaker who shares the gospel 3) organise an all male course further explaining the gospel 4) help people find a male friendly church.

Starting a fight

Next, the subject turns to testosterone.

“I’ve got my testosterone for a reason and since I don’t need to hunt a stag for dinner anymore, I might as well use it for something,” Carl says

“I’m trying to call the guys to get involved in a fight with something that’s noble and good.”

“We’ve been given a fighting spirit so I’m trying to call the guys to get involved in a fight with something that’s noble and good. I’m not talking about bar room brawls but the spiritual equivalent of that.”

“Let’s tackle issues like violence against women, seek to become better husbands and fathers or if we’re single keep our sexual integrity. We’re there to make a profound difference and bring men to Christ. So use your testosterone for good.”

The Code

The 12 point honour code Carl developed has resonated with thousands of men across the UK. What is it about?

“It’s like a new monastic order without the celibacy and we can still have a drink,” he says.

“The idea is you read it, are inspired by it and take action because of it. There’s things like ‘Jesus is my captain brother, rescuer and friend’ which is a declaration of faith and the last one is ‘I’ll never give up because he’ll never give on me’ which is a declaration of grace.”

“There’s stuff like ‘I’ll treat all men and women as brothers and sisters.’ If you do that you’re not going to jack off to porn because she’s a potential sister in Christ.”

“We thought about 12 areas of a man’s life that need to be brought into sharp focus. It took two years to work out 12 statements. Normally I do things in half an hour so that was quite challenging,” he admits.

The Manual
Following on from The Code, Carl has just released a series of short snappy devotions for men called The Manual.

“On the basis that most men’s attention span is short and we like things that are blunt and direct we thought we’d pick on the issues that man are facing. They are 200-300 words long and start with a verse and end with a prayer. The idea is everyday a guy can pick them up, read it and get something out of it. It’s not irrelevant fluffy stuff, it’s real stuff that men are facing.”

Although these devotions are hot off the press, feedback has been rolling in already. “I had one guy saying he’s reading it outside of work with two younger men he’s led to Christ before they walk through the office doors. Crucially what we’ve done is we haven’t dated it, we’ve numbered it. If blokes miss the date they won’t look back at it through guilt but if they are looking at number 13 it doesn’t really matter.”

“It’s not irrelevant fluffy stuff, it’s real stuff that men are facing”

‘Why are there tissues everywhere?!’

Those familiar with Carl and his ministry will be unsurprised to hear him complain about what he calls the “romanticisation” of the Church. His seminar at New Wine included a moment where he kicked a box of tissues across the stage asking, “Why are there tissues everywhere!? Do they think we’re all going to cry or something!?”

It was moments like this that made me compare Carl to the controversial US pastor Mark Driscoll. “Yeah people say that,” he replies when I put this to him. “We’re the same age but I’m not as belligerent as he is. I don’t know. I think I’m my own man.”

CVM’s annual event, The Gathering certainly sounds like an event for manly men. “1500 guys together in a field. We burn stuff, eat stuff and talk to people about Jesus. We sing hymns, we don’t sing romantic songs. We make a lot of noise and it’s great fun. We have sports cars and that kind of stuff, it’s good blokey fun.”

Inflicting intimacy

Carl says the women he speaks to hate the romanticisation of the church too. “There’s a really small group of people who are really heavily into some of the intimacy stuff and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them but I would say is ‘don’t inflict that on the rest of us who don’t get it.’”

“A lot of people think you’ve not achieved this revelation of God if you’re not in that zone. They think you’ve got issues because you can’t say ‘Jesus is my lover’ or ‘He is beautiful’. I say ‘if that means I’ve got issues then I’ll keep them! I like those issues!’”

Amusing throughout our short conversation, Carl isn’t afraid to be direct and make important and weighty points. But he isn’t quite as macho as he sometimes comes across. “I drink warm beer in warm pubs with newspapers,” he says as we finish our conversation.

After thanking him for his time, I get up to leave. “Don’t write anything that will make people hate me too much,” he asks. Smiling I reply, “I’ll do my best!”

During a weekend of speaking and conferencing in London, Dean (CVM Managing Director) and I were heading back on the Northern Line to our hotel, when Dean spotted a woman being forced aggressively against a wall by a man. Our train was in the station with the doors open.  It looked like it was going to get nasty and as Dean got out of his seat I saw the woman try to slap the man in the face to get him away.  He was so close to her and so forceful that she couldn’t get get her hands free properly.  She looked terrified. Not good.

Ironic in the extreme was the fact that we had just finished a men’s day where we had been highlighting the excellent work being done by Restored (a global coalition to provide a Christian response to violence against women).  Peter Grant, one of the co-directors had encouraged the men present to take a stand where necessary against violent men and not stand idly by.

Seconds later we were confronting him.  Shielding the woman we firmly asked him to move away.  At the same time, a platform announcement was made to the man, asking him to “stop harassing the lady.”  However, this guy wasn’t up for stopping.  Turning to me and getting right into my face he told me “@$£% Off” and asked me what I intended to do about it.  Aggressive and threatening is an understatement.

I think you have a choice in these moments;  It was central London and it was late.  You have no idea whats going to happen next. It all happens quickly. You have questions to process instantly. Did he have a knife?  Was he going to go on the offensive?  Its essentially a two choice scenario. You either stand your ground or you step back.  We moved forward and told him firmly, several times whilst locking his gaze to “step back”.

Eventually he did and after a few minutes of standing guard, assistance came and he was led away.

At one point I had turned to the other men on the train and asked if a few others would join us.  I had the thought that if a handful of guys were gathered around, it would pressure him to back down.  No one moved.  No surprise there.

When I developed “The Code” one of the statements (Code X) ended up being, “I will use my strength to protect the weak and stand against the abuse of power.”  In that moment she was in a very weak position and he was the abuser of power.  You can’t sit back.

The lady actually told us, with tears running down her cheeks that she would be ok.  There was a look on her face that somehow told me she had been there before with this guy. I didn’t move untill assistance arrived.

I’m grateful that the train driver refused to move the train until he knew she was ok.  I’m grateful for the announcer.  I’m grateful it didn’t get violent when we stepped in.  It was strengthening to be with Dean, another man of conviction, both of us standing shoulder to shoulder.  It was disappointing to see all those men refusing to move or burying their heads in their newspapers or books, pretending that nothing was happening.

Please check out Restored and The Code.  Also see the movement called First Man Standing we are helping to promote.

I pray the lady was ok.  I hope she leaves that man.  I hope he had a wake up call.  I pray that one day there will be a big enough groundswell so that these incidents become fewer.  I hope that more men will be prepared to confront rather than shrink away.

When I read Luke 4:18 I dont see a passive call to justice.  I see a call to stand in the gap when we need to and take a hit if necessary, even putting yourself in harms way if thats what’s required.  That seems to me, to be a redeemed use of my strength.

Shalom!